Sunday, January 21st, 2018


World Bank signs US$300m loan for Nepal quake reconstruction

KATHMANDU, Jan 21 — The World Bank today approved a US$300 million (RM1.2 billion) loan for Nepal as the impoverished nation struggles to raise money to rebuild almost three years after an earthquake killed thousands and flattened homes….

Malaysia needs new social compact similar to NEP of 1970s: Economist

PETALING JAYA: The country needs a new social compact similar to the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the 1970s to chart future growth and see continued improvement in Malaysian household income distribution, according to Khazanah Research Institute Visiting Senior Fellow Professor Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

The 20-year policy, launched in 1971, was to accelerate economic growth by reducing poverty and restructuring society, at the same time redirect the benefits more to the disadvantaged, in order to achieve its objective of national unity.

Although the current Gini coefficient measurement showed a decline to 0.399% in 2016 from 0.513% in 1970 indicates an improvement in Malaysian household income distribution, Jomo said, many of the recent policies are reversing what was achieved in the earlier period.

Jomo said the policy’s greatest achievement was during the 1970s, noting that Malaysian income inequality declined during the period.

“Contrary to what many people claim, the 1970s was a period of rapid growth, decline in inequality and disparities between town and country as well as among the ethnic groups. This is because there was a high growth … most people got better off, and so poverty went down.

“After that, the policies were quite different, and they had different consequences,” he told SunBiz after speaking at the “Malaysian Income Distribution in a Global Context” seminar, jointly organised by Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) last Thursday.

During the last two decades, he said, the country encountered deindustrialisation, a turn towards traditional services despite the advent of modern services, slower growth, as well as less improvement in overall living standards.

“As the consequence of this, it is not clear where future growth is going to come from”, Jomo said.

Moreover, he said, the country’s high dependence on foreign direct investments and foreign labour is also among the major problems that it should be concerned about, noting foreign labour now constitutes about one-third of the country’s labour force.

Therefore, he said, there is a need for the country to establish a stronger basis and mechanism for its future growth and development, as well as to ensure that the people can benefit from it.

“We need a new social compact. We need to have an open discussion on that, not a manipulated discussion. A truly open discussion where you talk to all kinds of people, including people who may have different views,” he added.

Jomo was one of the guest speakers at the seminar, which was aimed at exploring income distribution in Malaysia within the framework of broader global income distribution patterns and failure and successes of policies across the world.

Saudi minister: Oil producers have consensus on extending cooperation beyond 2018

MUSCAT: Opec and non-Opec oil producers have a consensus that they should continue cooperating on production after the end of 2018, when their current agreement on production cuts expires, Saudi Arabian energy minister Khalid al-Falih said today.

If oil inventories increase in 2018 as some in the market expect, producers may have to consider rolling the supply cut agreement into 2019, but the exact mechanism for cooperation next year has not yet been decided, Falih said.

He was speaking at a news conference after a meeting of the joint ministerial committee which oversees implementation of the cuts. The committee includes Russia and Kuwait, among other countries.

Earlier, speaking to reporters before the meeting, Falih said extending cooperation would convince the world that coordination among producers was “here to stay”.

“We shouldn’t limit our efforts to 2018 – we need to be talking about a longer framework of cooperation,” Falih said. “I am talking about extending the framework that we started, which is the declaration of cooperation, beyond 2018.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean sticking barrel by barrel to the same limits or cuts, or production targets country by country that we signed up to in 2016, but assuring stakeholders, investors, consumers and the global community that this is something that is here to stay. And we are going to work together.”

Falih said the global economy had strengthened while supply cuts – in which Saudi Arabia has shouldered by far the largest burden – had shrunk oil inventories around the world. As a result, the oil market will return to balance in 2018, he added.

But he said producers still had a lot of hard work ahead to restore the market to health, and it was unlikely to reach balance by the middle of this year.

Falih and energy ministers from the United Arab Emirates and Oman noted that the rise of the Brent oil price to three-year highs around US$70 (RM276) a barrel in recent weeks could cause an increase in supply of shale oil from the United States. But both Falih and UAE minister Suhail al-Mazroui said they did not think the rise in prices would hurt global demand for oil.

The next joint Opec-non-Opec ministerial monitoring committee meeting will be held in April in Saudi Arabia, Russian RIA news agency reported yesterday, citing an Opec (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) statement. – Reuters

Palm prices to trade at RM2,500-RM2,700 a tonne from March: Top analyst

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil prices are expected to trade at RM2,500-RM2,700 a tonne due to falling production from March onwards, and as stock levels decline from now until July, said leading vegetable oils analyst Dorab Mistry on Saturday.

That would be a recovery for benchmark palm oil prices that have slumped more than 10% since early November on rising Malaysian stockpiles. Inventory levels in Malaysia rose to their highest in more than two years last month, hitting 2.7 million tonnes.

“Palm looks oversold and demand is at record levels,” Mistry said at an edible oils conference in Karachi, Pakistan, according to an early copy of his presentation.

An upcoming general election in Malaysia sometime between now and August will also provide price support, he said.

“We must expect measures from the Malaysian government to assist small growers and to support prices.”

Palm oil prices in Malaysia fell 1.3% on Friday to close at RM2,445 a tonne.
“Stocks have peaked and will gradually decline from now until July 2018,” Mistry said, adding that his price outlook is based on an assumption of Brent crude oil prices at US$60-US$75 (RM236-RM296) a barrel.

Palm oil is currently at peak production, and that will run through March 2018, Mistry said.

Palm oil production typically rises during the fourth quarter of each year before declining through the middle of the following year. Analysts, however, expect to see slower seasonal tapering this year, as output trends have been affected by the dry weather El Nino event of 2015.

Mistry, who is also the director of Indian consumer goods company Godrej International, pegged Malaysia’s 2018 palm oil output at 21 million tonnes, while Indonesia’s was forecast at 38 million tonnes.

The two countries are the world’s top producers and account for nearly 90% of global palm oil.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board reported an output of 19.9 million tonnes in 2017, while the Indonesia Palm Oil Association estimated its production last year at 36.5 million tonnes.

“Overall in oil year 2017-2018 (ending September 2018), palm production will be up at least 4.5 million tonnes (globally),” said Mistry.

Crude palm oil prices would rise to US$750 per tonne CIF Rotterdam by mid-year, Mistry also said. Refined, bleached and deodorised palm olein prices would touch US$720 a tonne on a free-on-board basis, he said. – Reuters

Govt to intensify efforts to help entrepreneurs digitise business

ALOR SETAR, Jan 21 — The government will intensify efforts to help local entrepreneurs digitise their businesses to increase income, said Deputy Finance Minister 1, Datuk Wira Othman Aziz. He said the efforts would be further continued at the…

Seven of 100 top listed firms have all-male boards

PETALING JAYA: Only seven of the top 100 listed companies on Bursa Malaysia Bhd have all-male boards since the start of a campaign by the Securities Commission (SC) to at least have one female representative in these companies, by the end of 2018.

In a statement released today the SC said as at Jan 17, 2018 there has been a 65% improvement in the drive, from just 20 companies as at Dec 31, 2016.

The seven remaining companies are Affin Holdings Bhd, Alliance Bank Bhd, Batu Kawan Bhd, Fraser & Neave Holdings Bhd, Genting Plantations Bhd, Genting Malaysia Bhd, and UOA Development Bhd.

The SC and the 30% Club Malaysia are actively engaging these companies.

“The SC understands that some of these companies are taking steps to identify suitable candidates to secure women participation on their boards. Fraser & Neave will be nominating two women candidates to be appointed as board members in their upcoming AGM,” it said.

Moving forward, SC will review and analyse corporate governance disclosures to monitor the level of implementation of corporate governance practices including gender diversity. These observations will be published by the SC through periodic corporate governance thematic reports.

As at Dec 31, 2017, 19.2% of board seats on the top 100 listed companies on Bursa Malaysia were occupied by women; up from 16.6% as at Dec 31, 2016.

[Breaking News] US shutdown begins as Senate fails to pass new budget


The US government has begun shutting down many of its services after the Senate failed to agree on a new budget. A bill to fund the federal government until 16 February did not receive the required 60 votes amid a bitter dispute over immigration and border security. It is the first shutdown ever to happen while the same party, the Republicans, controls Congress and the White House. The impasse will affect hundreds of thousands of federal workers, and the recriminations have already begun. President Donald Trump accused Democrats of puttingRead More

Research firm positive over Battersea Phase 2 Project takeover

PETALING JAYA: Public Investment Bank Research is positive on the takeover of the commercial assets of the Battersea Power Station project by Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) from an associate company of Sime Darby Property Bhd and SP Setia Bhd, in which both companies hold 40% interest in.

Both groups could see their earnings lifted by at least RM400 million or at a 15% margin to its pre-tax profit should the proposal materialise, it said in separate reports.

The research house said that asset monetisation is part of the Sime Darby Property’s strategy of getting the best use of each piece of land while disposing non-strategic land. It has a target price of RM1.90 for Sime Darby Property.

“We still favour SP Setia for its sizable and well located landbank, consistent performance, good earnings visibility and decent dividend yield,” the research house said.

The price target for the stock was maintained at RM4.50.

The research house has given an “outperform” rating for both Sime Darby and SP Setia, supported by the view that the move will enable both companies to monetise their commercial assets more efficiently and redeploy the capital into subsequent development phases of the London project.

Earnings of both companies were kept unchanged at this point of time, as information remains sketchy due to the proposal still being in an early stage.

“We understand that residential pre-sales is now over 90% and the entire 470,000 sq ft of office space in the Battersea Power Station building has been let out to Apple. To recap, the Battersea Power Station project covers 42 acres and includes 3.5m sq ft of mixed commercial space, together with 4,364 new homes,” the firm said.

The two groups announced to the stock exchange that the Battersea Phase 2 Holding had entered into a heads of agreements with PNB and EPF to explore the terms of a potential sale on completion of the commercial assets currently being developed within Phase 2 of Battersea Power Station project, to a joint venture company to be formed between PNB and EPF.

Sime Darby Property's share price closed unchanged at RM1.59 with some 3.9 million shares done, while SP Setia closed up five sen to RM2.34 with some 4.5 million shares traded.

Saudi Arabia calls for extending non-Opec cooperation

MUSCAT, Jan 21 — Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh today called for extending cooperation between Opec and non-Opec oil producers beyond 2018 after a deal to shore up crude prices. “We should not limit our efforts to 2018. We…

Airbus to get ‘10 years of visibility’ from Emirates deal, says CEO

PARIS, Jan 21 — A US$16 billion (RM63 billion) deal with Emirates airline for A380 superjumbos will give Airbus “at least 10 years of visibility”, the European manufacturer’s CEO Tom Enders said in an interview published today. Emirates…